In a shocking move by the Los Angeles Lakers management, head coach Mike Brown was fired only five games into the season after leading the teams star-studded roster to a 1-4 start.
Lakers’ players probably won’t have time to dwell on the move as they play the Golden State Warriors tonight. The way this writer sees it, if the players can look forward and move on, then so can we. So let’s get to the fun part.
Who should Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak hire as a replacement for Brown?
It needs to be someone knows how to handle big egos, like those of Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant. It needs to be someone who knows how to deal with aging players with unique needs and personalities.
It needs to be someone who’s coached in a big market, has dealt with the media on a uniquely personal level, and won’t be intimidated by the role of “Head Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.”
It needs to be Jeff Van Gundy.
Doesn’t it make sense? Just look at his past and the pieces fit nicely.
Van Gundy has dealt with big egos before. He coached players like Latrell Sprewell, Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Steve Francis and Yao Ming (just kidding, about Ming’s ego, not him being coached by Van Gundy, that totally happened.)
Compared to a couple of those guys, Dwight Howard’s a saint. He likely won’t even get dragged around by his leg during a team vs. team brawl. I can’t rule it out completely, but it’s likely.
He’s also designed offenses around talented, but aging players. In ‘98 he coached a New York Knicks team to the Eastern conference semis who’s youngest player was a 26-year-old Ben Davis. Ewing was still playing. Starks was still playing. Terry Williams was still playing. Herb Williams was still playing!
Surely he can coach a still-elite Steve Nash and a slightly ailing but also still elite Kobe Bryant to at least an NBA finals appearance.
Van Gundy has also coached some very high profile teams. The Knicks of the 90’s were constantly in the spotlight– as is to be expected from any professional team in New York– but then later in his career he coached the Yao and Tracy McGrady Houston Rockets, another playoff contender with international superstars.
On top of all this, he’s spent the last several years watching and doing commentary on just about every team in the league while calling games for ESPN. He loves the game, and he knows the game.
The elephant in the room is of course a matter of family. We’ll be honest, Dwight Howard completely screwed over Jeff’s brother Stan Van Gundy. There’s a reason he’s not the head coach of the Orlando Magic anymore, and Dwight is that reason.
The only question is, would JVG be willing to overlook that indiscretion by Howard?
I think that a guy as passionate about the game of basketball would be willing to move past that event in order to have a chance to coach a team with the amount of talent as the Lake Show.